China shuts factory after hundreds of children poisoned Authorities close chemical factory near birthplace of Chairman Mao after more than 300 children are found to have suffered lead poisoning and local Communist Party chief attempts to blame their condition on pencils A factory in China belching out pollution A chemical plant believed to have poisoned hundreds of Chinese children has been forced to close despite claims from a local politician that their ailments had been caused by chewing pencils. The Meilun Chemical Materials factory in Hunan provinceâ€™s Hengdong county hit the headlines earlier this year after reports suggested it had been responsible for a health crisis that has left more than 300 children with excessive levels of lead in their blood. The plant had been pumping untreated waste into the regionâ€™s waters and air, stunting the growth of some local children and leaving others seriously ill, residents told CCTV, the state broadcaster. â€œMy body is weak and I feel dizzy all the time,â€ complained Huang Junjun, one of the affected schoolboys. Lead poisoning posed a major threat to the childrenâ€™s â€œneural and reproductive systemsâ€ and in severe cases could lead to â€œcoma, convulsions and death,â€ reported Xinhua, Chinaâ€™s official news agency. Communist Party chiefs in Hengdong county, which is around 90 miles southeast of Shaoshan, Mao Tse-tungâ€™s hometown, responded to the claims with evasiveness and obfuscation. Su Genlin, the party chief in the affected region, claimed the children might have poisoned themselves by chewing â€œlead pencilsâ€ which have for centuries been made with non-toxic graphite rather than the dangerous heavy metal. â€œChildren bite pencils, which may also cause the excessive levels of lead [in their blood],â€ Mr Su was quoted as saying. Despite Mr Suâ€™s attempts to downplay the crisis, national outrage at the childrenâ€™s plight forced authorities to act. The factoryâ€™s electricity supply was disconnected over the weekend while its equipment was being dismantled, Hengdong county government said in a statement. A police investigation is now underway. The scandal is the latest example of the human cost of Chinaâ€™s obsession with economic growth at all cost. In his first speech as Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping admitted that while his predecessors had transformed â€œthe poor and backward old China into an increasingly prosperous and powerful new Chinaâ€ the environment had suffered. "Our people love life and yearn for better education, stable jobs, more satisfactory income, greater social security, improved medical and health care, and a more beautiful environment,â€ he said. That more beautiful environment has yet to materialise, particularly in Hunan province, a major agricultural producer that is notorious for its contaminated soils. Around 20 per cent of the rice produced in Hunan had been contaminated with heavy metals including cadmium and lead, according to a 2003 study obtained by the Chinese media. In April, Beijing admitted that one fifth of the countryâ€™s farmland had been polluted with a toxic cocktail of heavy metals and chemicals. China shuts factory after hundreds of children poisoned - Telegraph ***************************************************************************** China economic growth is indeed incredible and laudable. However, development without responsibility is dangerous. Money is not everything. The safety regulations appear to be lax in China since there are repetitive health and safety issues get reported from China. Given their tight control over unfavourable news being reported, it must be even worse than what sometimes comes to light. What is worse is that when such incidents happen, they pathetically try to cover the reason why it happened, like in this case they claim it is because children chew pencils! India should take heed from the incidents in China as we move forward with out development and tryst with destiny.